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Can Beaufort region learn from Barents Arctic transportation plan?

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic
A Russian vessel moves through rugged Arctic sea ice. Mike Dunn/NOAA photo

Transportation ministers from the four Barents countries -- Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway -- released the Joint Barents Transport Plan this week in conjunction with the Narvik Conference on Arctic shipping and development in Norway. The plan covers everything from railway and roads to ports and air travel. Experts say comprehensive regional planning will allow the Barents countries to take advantage of increased economic activity in the European Arctic.

The Beaufort region in Alaska and Canada’s western Arctic has harsher ice conditions and is less developed in terms of infrastructure compared to the Barents region. But some experts say the plan could provide a model for the Beaufort region of the North American Arctic.

“I think there’s a great variety of important transport and economic development proposals that will only get the high level attention they need in Washington and Ottawa if this area is looked at as a single economic region of great benefit to everyone,” said John Higginbotham, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, an independent Canadian think tank, and a Senior Distinguished Fellow and Canada’s Carleton University located in Ottawa.

“I know that at a regional level among Alaskans, Yukon government and the Northwest Territories government there’s a real will to cooperate and to look at issues on a regional basis, but I’m not sure yet that we have the buy-in from Washington and Ottawa to take that approach.”

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.